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Saturday, August 31, 2013 - 5:51pm
A day after an Obama administration official accused the Syrian government of engaging in chemical warfare against its own people, U.N. inspectors left the war-ravaged nation Saturday carrying evidence from the sites of the alleged chemical weapons attacks.
Syria warned the United States that it is prepared to confront any aggression. As more details emerge out of Syria, these are the latest developments.
-- Iranian lawmakers arrived in Damascus on Saturday "as a sign of solidarity with the Syrian government," Iran's state-run news agency IRNA reported.
-- Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan and the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Saturday that Obama "wisely chose" to seek congressional support for military action against Syria. Congressional authorization, he said, would strengthen Obama's decision to take action.
-- A spokesman for the opposition Syrian National Coalition told CNN's Ivan Watson on Saturday that the opposition group was surprised by Obama's decision to consult Congress before any military action against Syria. Louay Safi said it was a "great disappointment" because they expected action after the U.S. administration blamed the Assad regime for carrying out the chemical weapons attack. "Our fear now is that the lack of action could embolden the regime and they repeat his attacks in a more serious way," Safi said.
-- Republican leadership aides told CNN's Dana Bash on Saturday that the congressional vote on action against Syria is going to depend on the White House. They said the president needs to make his case to Congress and the American people. The White House also needs to answer the questions that the House speaker and others in Congress have asked, they said.
-- U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-New York, chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterintelligence and Terrorism and a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence, said Saturday the president is "abdicating his responsibility as commander-in-chief and undermining the authority of future presidents" by seeking congressional approval for military action against Syria. Now that he is seeking it, however, Obama should call Congress back into a special session at the earliest date, he said.
-- The top Republican leaders in the U.S. House issued a statement Saturday saying they are glad the president will seek congressional authorization for any military action against Syria. In the statement, House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers said they expect the House to consider the measure the week of September 9.
-- British Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted Saturday after the president's speech, "I understand and support Barack Obama's position on #Syria."
-- After Obama's speech, a military and political analyst on Syrian state TV said Obama is "embarrassed" that Russia opposes military action against Syria, is "crying for help" for someone to come to his rescue, and is facing two defeats -- on the political and military levels.
-- U.S. Senator Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, a ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said Saturday he is pleased that Obama plans to seek congressional authorization for military action against Syria. He said he looks forward to a "vigorous debate" on the issue and that it's now "imperative" that Obama use "every ounce of his energy" to make his case to the American people.
-- Obama said that the United States "should take military action against Syrian targets." However, he said in a Rose Garden address that he would seek congressional authorization when federal lawmakers return from recess.
-- The United States will insist that claims of chemical weapons use by Syria are investigated and confronted by the world community, Obama said.
-- Obama appealed for congressional leaders to consider their responsibilities and values in debating U.S. military action in Syria over its alleged chemical weapons use."Some things are more important than partisan differences or the politics of the moment," he said."Today I'm asking Congress to send a message to the world that we are united as one nation."
-- Obama said "a country faces few decisions as grave as taking military action" -- but that the evidence of chemical weapons use against men, women and children in Syria demands action."If we really do want to turn away from taking appropriate action in the face of such an unspeakable outrage then we must acknowledge the costs of doing nothing," he said.
-- Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Saturday that Obama had advised him he will "seek an authorization for the use of force from the Congress prior to initiating any combat operations against Syria in response to the use of chemical weapons."
-- U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky on Saturday gave no timetable for the analysis of evidence and witness accounts of an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria. He also said, "The secretary-general has also said repeatedly that there is no alternative to a political solution to this crisis, overall crisis in Syria -- a military solution is not an option."
-- More consultations are needed with Congress and allies before any "response" is taken regarding Syria, a senior U.S. official told CNN Saturday. It's not clear what implications this might have for the timing of any possible U.S. strike on Syria.
-- A plane carrying the U.N. inspectors and their cargo of evidence arrived Saturday afternoon at the Hague Airport in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
-- "The Syrian Army's status is on maximum readiness and fingers are on the trigger to confront all challenges," said Prime Minister Wael Nader al-Halqi during a meeting with a delegation of Syrian expatriates from Italy, according to a banner on Syria State TV.
-- U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin E. Dempsey and Vice President Joe Biden arrived Saturday morning at the White House.
-- Senior Obama administration officials will hold unclassified conference calls Saturday afternoon with the Senate Republican Conference and the Senate Democratic Caucus to continue the administration's consultations regarding the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria in an August 21 attack by the Syrian government, a White House official told CNN.
-- Speaker John Boehner's office told House members that they have access to the classified intelligence assessment on Syria and that the White House will brief all interested House members at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
-- National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Kerry, Hagel, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. James Winnefeld, Jr., and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper will be speaking for the administration.
-- Russian President Vladimir Putin said the claim that Damascus used chemical weapons is a provocation, Russian state news agency Ria Novosti reported Saturday. He added that he hopes to take up the matter during a planned meeting with Obama during the G20 summit on September 5-6.
-- A military commander in Iran said Saturday that Israel will face retaliatory attacks if the United States attacks Syria. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi also said that a U.S. offensive would threaten Russian interests.
-- Russian Foreign Minister Alexander Lukashevich dismissed a possible missile strike as "unacceptable." He added that United Nations weapons inspectors are still investigating.
-- Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says the evidence against President Bashar al-Assad is overwhelming and, "therefore, the focus now legitimately lies on the most appropriate from of international response."
-- There has been no request by the United States for the Australian military to participate in possible strike against Syria, Rudd said.
-- Obama said the U.S. military and his security team were looking at a "wide range of options," but he added that any American action would not involve sending troops or waging a long-term campaign.
-- Kerry said Friday that U.S. intelligence information found that 1,429 people were killed August 21 in a chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb, including at least 426 children. That's more than four times the number of fatalities estimated by British intelligence. Kerry did not explain the discrepancy.
-- A preliminary U.S. government assessment asserted "with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapons attack against opposition elements in the Damascus suburbs." Kerry said the question now is "what are we ... in the world going to do about it?"
-- Kerry said Syrian officials made preparations for chemical weapons use for three days prior to the August 21 attack, and that rockets were launched from areas controlled by the Syrian regime and landed in areas controlled by the opposition or contested.
-- Citing support from the Arab League, Turkey and France, Kerry said Friday that "we are not alone in our will to do something about" last week's chemical weapons attack in Syria, which he blamed on al-Assad's regime.
--The United States "will not repeat" using false intelligence in an attempt to justify a military campaign, Kerry said, referring to the 2003 U.S.-led war on Iraq war, which then-President George W. Bush said was initiated in response to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. They were never found.
-- Former President George W. Bush said Obama has a "tough choice to make" on potential U.S. military action against Syria's president. "If he decides to use our military, he'll have the greatest military ever backing him up," Bush told Fox News.
-- Former President Jimmy Carter said "a punitive military response without a U.N. Security Council mandate or broad support from NATO and the Arab League would be illegal under international law and unlikely to alter the course of the war."
-- The British parliament vote to reject military action in Syria reflects "the majority opinion in Europe as a whole, not just Britain," Russian President Vladimir Putin's senior foreign policy adviser, Yuri Ushakov, said.
-- French President Francois Hollande told Le Monde newspaper that a possible military intervention should be limited and not have the goal of overthrowing al-Assad.